Nonnie_GAAugust 3, 2011

Hi, new to the site and new to photography.

I'm hoping someone can help me with a problem I'm having photographing oil paintings without a glare.

I have heard that hair spray can be sprayed on an oil painting and it will dull the glare. Does anyone know if this is an okay thing to do?

Thanks in advance.


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Absolutely not,,,,

In art they have a spray material called "Fixative" that is sprayed on pencil, charcoal, pastel or chalk drawings to seal the material so it will not smudge if touched.

True art fixative is realitively expensive and many amateurs use hair spray as a substitute BUT, as a photographer attempting to photograph any artwork you should never under any circumstances spray anything on the artwork nor should you make any attempt to clean a piece of art, even if the art is a marble statue or a piece of ceramic. If it requires cleaning allow the artist or the owner of the piece to do the cleaning and/or restoration and when they are satisfied its done, you can then proceed to photograph it.

If you are getting glare the problem is with your lighting setup. Generally when photographing art you will be working indoors and will need some form of artificial lighting.

Generally a built in flash or an external flash mounted on top of the camera does not work well because the light is going straight forward against the flat surface of the painting, then bouncing right back to the lens producing glare or a hot spot in the picture.

For best results the painting should be mounted vertically on a wall or stand and the camera should be mounted on a tripod with the lens pointed straight at the center of the subject.

You should then have two lights, one on either side and positioned so they are at about a 45deg angle to the surface of the painting. In this way any harsh light that is reflected will reflect off at a 45deg angle to the opposite side and thereby missing the camera while it leaves an even lighting on the subject.

For best results your lights should have a reflector to direct the light where you desire it, and they should also be equiped with a difuser screen to prevent harsh light on the subject.

Another option that works very well is to construct a table top studio. If you anticipate photographing a lot of paintings I will be glad to post complete construction details on how you can build a table top studio very cheaply.

One word of caution, if you are photographing indoors under artificial light, be sure to change your "White Balance" to florescent or incandescent light, depending upon what type of lighting your using.

You may also want to consider using a polarizing filter, which will reduce or eliminate glare.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 7:08PM
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Polarizing filter?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 9:41PM
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Lazypup, thank you for your detailed instructions. I will work with your suggestions.

Zitro joe, thanks to you, too, for your suggestion.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 12:36AM
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"Polarizing filter?"

Zitro Joe, with the inclusion of the queston mark I presume you are asking what a polarizing filter is.

A polarizing filter is a circular glass filter that screws onto the front end of you lens in the same manner as a UV or contrast filter. The major difference is that the polarizing filter is actually a two part device that has a mount ring that screws onto the lens filter thread, but the actual glass filter is made in such a manner that it can be rotated.

To use a polarizing filter you generally need to mount the camera on a tripod and you would compose and focus in the normal manner then you watch through your viewfinder as you gently rotate the polarizing filter and you will see the image change as glare and hotspots seem to disappear and generally it will improve the overall contrast of the photo.

Polarizing filters work especially well when photographing shiny surfaces such as automobiles or when shooting water. They are also very effective to increase the contrast between clouds and open sky and when shooting scenics under bright sun the polarizing filter will improve the contrast of folliage. The down side is that they do not work well for shooting quick candids or sports shots because you do not have time to adjust the filter.

Polarizing filters are made in two varieties.

Linear Polarizing Filters are indexed "PL" and they are generally used on manual focus lenses whereas for auto-focus they recommend the use of "Circular Polarizing Filters" which are labelled "CPL"

When purchasing a polarizing filter you must first know the diameter of the filter mount on your lens. If you look at the writing on the lens that gives the specifications after the focul length and f-stop you will see an 0 with a line slashed through it. That indicates the diameter of your lens filter mount and you would buy a filter to fit that size.

If you look in your local camera store or perhaps run a search on Ebay for polarizing filters you will see them listed by size and they generally range about $12 to $20 depending upon the quality you select.

Normally I am very frugal and look for a less expensive way to do the job, but filters are one area where I personally insist on getting the higher quality to insure they are actually made from photo quality optical glass and not some piece or repurposed window glass.

From my experience if you purchase filters that are made by one of the major camera makers, I.E. Nikon, Canon or Pentax you can be fairly certain that they are made from high quality optical glass. "Hoya" is another company that is world renown for the quality of their photographic filters. I would just be hesitant to buy one of the generic off brands from China that we often see on Ebay.

You can expect to pay about $12 to $24 for a quality filter and you will need one for each size of lens you use, but there is one way to save a little money here. You could buy a filter to fit your largest lens diameter then buy an inexpensive filter mount "Step down" ring. The step down ring will have a female thread equal to the filter size and a smaller male thread that will attach to your lens. By example, for my 70-300mm lens I need a 58mm filter but my 18-55mm lens has a 52mm thread mount so I got a 58mm polarizing filter and a 58 to 55mm step down ring so I can use the filter on either lens. (the step down rings are only about $3)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 5:11PM
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Sorry about the confusion, it was more of "Have you tried a xxxx?"

I didnt realize you had suggested it in the last line of you post.

That was a nice post, very informational for those that dont know.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 12:23AM
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